By Zach James Herald Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — Brady Ernst wasn't ready to call it a season quite yet.
The Clinton junior sat out six games because of a hand injury but started on senior night against Muscatine in a 54-36 boys basketball win Friday.
Ernst scored 14 points along with 11 rebounds in his first game back since Feb. 1 in the Ottens Shootout against Timothy Christian (Ill).
"It was definitely good to get him back into the mix," Clinton coach Nick Lawrence said. "He looked a little rusty at times, but that's what happens when someone sits out for a long period of time, but he played a really solid game tonight."
Ernst was more than eager to get back out onto the floor with the River Kings.
"It just felt good to be playing again," Ernst said. "I missed being out there on the floor, but I've felt good all week."
Lawrence had no hesitation turning to Ernst heading into postseason play.
"There was no decision to be made; he changes the whole game," Lawrence said. "He's our security blanket. He's a game changer for us; all we needed to know is if he was comfortable in going and we were ready to put him back into the mix."
While on the bench, Ernst realized he saw a lot more about the game off the floor, which he says was a great learning experience.
"It was tough watching the guys struggle and not being able to do anything about it," Ernst said. "It made me a better player seeing things from that perspective."
Friday night also was Senior Night in Yourd Gym, and the three seniors Robbie Thacker, Jon Cady and Jalen Jones were honored before tip-off.
Jones put in a good performance in his final regular-season home game, scoring 14 points and hauling in 16 rebounds.
"Any senior would like to have those numbers on his senior night," Lawrence said. "All three seniors did some great things tonight.
"Rob had a great alley-oop pass to Brady on a backdoor screen in the zone, and Jon Cady had a heck of a game with nine rebounds. Really excellent minutes on senior night," Lawrence said.
On the whiteboard in the locker room beneath the gym, Lawrence had three things written down with stars drawn around them:
• "Must defend the glass."
• "Defend the 3."
• "Close the regular season with momentum."
"I thought we did a much better job of all three things tonight," Lawrence said. "Defense is what won this game for us, and those were points of emphasis going in. We needed to build momentum heading into Monday, and this is a big deal for us winning tonight."
Clinton will have a normal practice this morning, then have a light shootaround Sunday as it prepares for Class 4A playoff action against Cedar Rapids Washington in Yourd Gym on Monday night.
CLINTON 54, MUSCATINE 36
MUSCATINE (9-12) Tyler Sanders 0 0-0 0, Kyle Calvert 1 0-1 2, Matt Wieskamp 3 0-0 7, Spencer Beatty 0 0-2 0, Tyler Kovach 0 0-0 0, Drew Minder 1 0-0 2, Drew Wichers 2 0-0 6, Adam Miller 3 7-7 14, Duncan Snider 0 0-0 0, Garrett Roberson 0 1-2 1, Michael Hickey 2 0-0 4. Totals 21 8-12 36.
CLINTON (13-6) Robbie Thacker 1 0-0 2, Zach Pope 0 0-0 0, Jalen Jones 6 2-4 14, Jon Cady 4 2-5 11, Colin Nelson 0 0-0 0, Ashley Jones 1 0-0 2, Derrick Howard 4 3-5 11, Justin Horst 0 0-0 0, Ryan Day 0 0-0 0, Cole Pennock 0 0-0 0, Thomas Smith 0 0-0 0, Brady Ernst 5 4-9 14. Totals 21 11-23 54.
Muscatine 11 7 7 11 36
Clinton 9 13 7 25 54
3-point goals Muscatine 3 (Wichers 2, Wieskamp); Clinton (Cady). Total fouls Muscatine 21, Clinton 16. Fouled out Wichers, J. Jones.